Pearl Jam – Vs – Round 58 – Graham’s Choice

Recently I have given cause for my fellow 220px-PearlJam-Vscontributors to start to get quite nervous that their DRC blog is rapidly turning in to some kind of Agony Aunt/Self Help page. I probably did not help with my introduction to this album when outlining that inevitably a personal crisis has some kind playlist which develops as time goes past. As they reached for their Kleenex, they seemed somewhat surprised that this popped out.

Rage is a dangerous emotion and needs to be channelled appropriately. For me, no album has done it better recently, and on odd occasions in the past, better than this. Yes, there is far more aggressive and abrasive stuff out there, but this has the bonus that it has rage you can sing along to at times, in addition to the mash outs.

PJ are an odd bunch and much of their behaviour has led to people believing their worthiness and sincerity has led to them taking themselves far too seriously and on occasion coming close to disappearing up their own proverbial. Yes they were in the shadow of Nirvana, but who wasn’t and I never imagined that they were trying to do the same thing.

The follow up to their debut Ten, Vs feels more honest with less pressure or possible rejection of need for radio friendly hits. The most ‘anthemic’ track, Leash, is littered with the profanities which immediately prevent mainstream radio broadcast. Go, Animal and Blood are all there as a helpful alternative to throwing furniture around the room, while Dissident and Daughter are there for the wind down afterwards.

I stayed with PJ for another 2 albums and felt that was enough as they were good at what they did, but had done enough for me.

In “agony uncle” corner next round, we will be focussing on your DIY problems as we have now moved on from previous personal issues causing disruption to normal service….

Rob listened (and also noticed, true story, that a picture of the late and much missed Claire Rayner seems to have appeared in our Media Library – Graham?):

No. No, no, no. I haven’t come all this way to suddenly start liking Pearl Jam. However, hearing this gave a good, an ultimately entertaining, opportunity to discuss why Pearl Jam were different from those other bands, in ways we each either applauded or decried.

I guess I never liked straight down the line rock music, however well it might be played, or with whatever level of conviction. Also, at the time Pearl Jam were hocking their wares, I was sufficiently unencumbered by self-doubt or wider perspective to consider them sell-out motherfuckers. They may or may not have been, but even 20 years later, they still sound a hell of a lot like a lot of bands that were.

Tom Listened: Two record clubs meetings ago Graham introduced The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan and in so doing stated that I would hate it. This comment missed its mark by a country mile and I was bamboozled as to why Graham would have thought this (especially as I had brought John Maus to record club on a previous occasion – surely a pretty direct descendent of Mr Numan’s).

Well, Graham repeated the trick with Vs…and this time he was spot on! Sorry, Eddy and all you other Pearl Jam boys, but there is something about the sound you make that is deeply unpleasant to my ears and if I ever work out what it is (which will probably be, like, never…as I have no intention of ever listening to one of your albums again) I’ll let you know.

Nick listened: This album is totally conflated in my head with Ten, Pearl Jam’s debut; both of them got absolutely played to death by my friends when we were teenagers, and I don’t really know where one ends and the other begins. I never actually owned either myself, though I did own a Pearl Jam t-shirt. As such I have no idea whether I like this or not; I’ve internalised a huge amount of it simply via osmosis through repeated exposure, and familiarity and reminiscence ca easily be confused with affection and appreciation. That said, I have none of the issues that Tom and Rob seem to with this; Pearl Jam are very obviously ‘a good rock band’, I’m just not that bothered by rock music for the most part these days. I own a couple of their mid-period albums – No Code and Yield – but seldom play them, although “Given To Fly” used to get on a LOT of mixtapes / minidiscs / playlists [delete as appropriate]. Why is it OK to like Nirvana but not this? I’d just be projecting pseudo cultural studies ideology if I tried to answer that. It’s probably something to do with guitar solos.


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